LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear announced the recovery of a $15 million investment to build an aluminum mill in northeastern Kentucky that never materialized. The deal was originally brokered under former Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration with Braidy Industries to bring jobs to the state. 

What You Need To Know

  • The $15 million was returned to the Commonwealth Seed Capital, which will then send the dollars to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority

  • The KEDFA will use the money to facilitate private sector investment of $1 billion in the state

  • As recently as this summer, Kentucky Gov. Beshear was hoping to build the aluminum mill somewhere in the state

  • Originally brokered under former Gov. Matt Bevin, the Braidy Industries deal promised to bring in 550 jobs but never materialized

Beshear said that the land, which was previously acquired as part of the proposed project, would also be donated back to the local communities to be used for future economic development opportunities as part of a larger land transaction being negotiated.

“This announcement has been a long time coming, and I want to recognize members of this administration and Commonwealth Seed Capital, as well as Unity Aluminum, for coming together to do what is right for the community and Kentucky by returning these funds to the commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said. “Given the current economic momentum we are experiencing across the state, I am confident we will secure a significant project on the property, as it is a great site for a potential employer.”

The state’s investment has been returned to the Commonwealth Seed Capital. That group will now send the dollars to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority. KEFDA will administer the funds with the purpose of spurring private sector investment of at least $1 billion in the commonwealth. The General Assembly may also direct the KEFDA on what to use the funding for if it chooses.

The $15 million direct investment by the state was approved in 2017 in connection with a planned investment by Braidy Industries to construct an aluminum mill in Boyd and Greenup counties. The project did not come to fruition and Braidy — now known as Unity Aluminum — recently entered into a joint venture with Steel Dynamics Inc.

In addition to the return of the funds by Unity, the deal also includes an agreement to donate the property for the mill — approximately 205 acres and a spec building — to the original owner, the Northeast Kentucky Regional Industrial Authority.

Despite the botched deal, business advocates are still optimistic about economic prospects for the region.

“This has been a long process. We have, from the beginning, highlighted what this region, this regional industrial park and our people could represent to the business community and the world,” said Tim Gibbs, president and CEO of Ashland Alliance. “We appreciate the leadership of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and we look forward to getting back to what we do best, working for a stronger economy for the people of Northeast Kentucky.”

As recently as this summer, Unity Aluminum announced they were backing out of a proposed site for the project in Ashland. A spokesperson for the company said the Ashland site was “insufficient to meet the size and scope requirements,” for the new project, and was looking to build a plant somewhere in the southeast.

Beshear continued to press for the company to build in the state, but publicly admonished the original deal as the “worst and shadiest economic development deal in Kentucky’s history."

Former Gov. Matt Bevin, Beshear’s predecessor, pushed lawmakers to approve the $15 million project, with a promise of creating 550 jobs, but after five years and a lot of controversy, the plant never came to fruition. Braidy Industries founder Craig Bouchard left the company in 2020 amid questions about his use of company funds.

Beshear hopes the return of the funds will continue to build on economic momentum, and that other companies will be interested in building in the state in the future. “My promise to the people of the Ashland region is when we make an announcement, it’s going to be real, the jobs are going to be real and it’s going to be really exciting for the community,” Beshear said during a Thursday afternoon media briefing. “This is a better outcome than I ever thought possible.”